Sunday, March 19, 2023

Layout operating can be demanding

 There can be many meanings here of “demanding,” but I refer in the present context to physically demanding. This is of course not what one usually associates with operation, but I will show a vivid example.

It happens to be drawn from a session at Paul Weiss’s excellent Central Vermont layout here in the Bay Area. I have taken on the assignment of Yardmaster at the principal yard, East New London, several times. This job was envisioned as operating out of an office below the layout, where desk space and telephones were provided. 

The communication with the yard crew was intended to be through a window at floor level in the layout, but for the yardmaster, at desk level in the office.

This is really a clever idea in one sense, to find office space outside of the layout operating area. In the photo above, you see reflections in the upper window of people standing in the aisle. The gray desk surface is evident.

The working space for the yard crew is generous, a fairly wide aisle, with that window at one corner of the long dimension of the yard. Here is a distant view, with yard switchman Paul Deis at work. The yard is the lower layout level in this view, with the office window below.

Well, the phone by which the dispatcher can call the yard for information is inside the window, to the right as you face it in the photos above. But such a phone call isn’t easy to take if, like me, you prefer to supervise your yardmen in person, up at layout level. In one session, I took such a call by lying on the floor, with head through the window, as you see here.

This position looks dramatic (though actually not too uncomfortable, provided the call is short). But a  closer view may not look quite so relaxed.

From the office side of the window, it looks distinctly less comfortable, and that’s probably an accurate view. These three photos of me are by Paul Weiss (he was fascinated by the use to which his facilities were being put).

Paul and I discussed this problem, and realized that there are two possible solutions. One would be to add a phone outside the office window, on the layout side, up at waist level. That would make it quite easy for the yardmaster to take calls. The other solution is for me to train the dispatcher not to call the yard. That’s almost certainly faster and definitely less construction. We’ll have to see where it goes.

Tony Thompson

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